China to Deport Kokang Refugees Back to Burma: Sources

By Lawi Weng 13 May 2016

RANGOON — Chinese border authorities have ordered Kokang refugees back to Burma, threatening to deport those who resist the directive, according to sources on both sides of the border.

“They came through Thursday and destroyed 40 or 50 dwellings,” said Sai Lao, a brigadier-general in the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), a Kokang ethnic armed group that waged an intense campaign against the Burma Army in months-long hostilities that drove tens of thousands of civilians into China last year. “They will not tolerate staying along the border anymore.”

Before they destroyed the houses, “they came to take photos and told the refugees to leave the area, otherwise they would be arrested and deported back to Burma,” he said.

“The Kokang [refugees in China] cannot speak Burmese, and they are afraid of going back to Burma because they fear being detained there as well,” he said.

The Kokang are Mandarin-speaking ethnic Chinese who trace their roots in Burma as far back as the 18th century.

In early 2015, as many as 100,000 people, mostly Kokang, fled across the border to China to escape the fighting between the MNDAA and the Burma Army.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation released a report last month estimating that 20,000 of those refugees were still living in makeshift camps in Yunnan province in southern China, much higher than a 4,000 figure projected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“They have no food, and they have no shelter, but the rainy season is about to come,” said the MNDAA’s Sai Lao. “They have to leave, but they have no place to go. They may have to flee into the jungle.”

“They came and destroyed our houses from about 6 am to 11 am Thursday,” said Aung Kyaw Myint, a Kokang refugee living in Yunnan. “Around 45 houses were destroyed.”

“Some people went to their relatives’ houses; some went back to Burma; and some went to hide out in the jungle,” he said. “[The Chinese border authorities] told us that they did not want to mistreat us, but that their orders came from higher up.

“They said they would come again Thursday night, but it rained, so they didn’t show up.

“If we could go back to our homes [in Burma], we would,” he added. “But the situation is still unstable there, so we are afraid to return.”

The Kokang hail from a semiautonomous area in Shan State along the Burma-China border known as the Kokang Special Region. The conflict there has largely died down since fighting first broke out in February 2015, but no definitive truce has been reached between the warring parties.